We’ve talked a lot on this site about how to secure and protect yourself, but no matter how many steps you take to protect yourself, sometimes you can fall victim to laptop theft. In fact, it is becoming much more common these days. According to Gartner, a laptop is stolen every 53 seconds. In most cases, these thefts occur while transporting your laptop from one place or another. Often the thefts occur when you are targeted after setting your laptop down even for a very short period of time. In the blink of an eye your an investment worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars could be gone.
If that does happen to you, what are you supposed to do? I know, you feel violated and, of course, angry. But you can’t let that consume you. When your laptop is stolen you must take a few steps to ensure that you are protected. Sometimes, if you follow the proper procedures, you may even get your laptop back, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
Get Over the Initial Shock
When a theft occurs, you will be shocked that it happened to you. You will feel violated and probably a little nervous. It’s understandable. While dealing with a laptop theft is nowhere close to some crimes it is still unnerving and the thought of maybe having your identity stolen is downright scary. Take a deep breath and calm down. You need to gather yourself and deal with the problem rationally in order to minimize any damage.
Call the Police
The first thing you should do is call the police. Do this as soon as you realize that your laptop has been stolen. Make sure you stay at the location where it happened and let the police come to you. They may be able to work with the establishment to pull security footage to try and identify the thief or thieves. In the long run, this could help you get your laptop back. But don’t count on it.
Unfortunately, most laptops that are stolen are never returned. In most cases, however, your personal data is not the target of the thieves, just the devices themselves. These are often quickly wiped and then sold to pawn shops or to other unsuspecting individuals over the Internet.
Notify Your Insurance
I’m not going to lie to you, in most cases your insurance will NOT cover your stolen laptop, unless the theft occurs in your home. If it did, then obviously give them a call. But even if it didn’t it is worth checking out to see. Who knows, you may get lucky. Some insurance companies will cover a stolen laptop even if it happens while you were traveling. It all comes down to your policy. However, if they do cover it, go ahead and file a claim. You may need to provide a copy of the police report at this time as well so make sure you have an official copy ready to submit to the insurance company.
If they don’t cover the theft of your laptop, I’m sorry to say that the cost of replacing it will be left entirely up to you. This can be tough for some of us, but unfortunately it is just the reality in which we live.
Get a New Machine
If your insurance company covers you, chances are they will issue you a check minus your deductible for the laptop. The rest of the cost will be up to you. Take that money and go pick up a new laptop and set it up for yourself. If they don’t cover you, you will have to buy a new laptop. I recommend visiting our Laptop Guides to learn more about the systems available today. If you have to wait a little while before getting a new laptop, try and find an old one you have collecting dust or maybe even an old desktop that can get you online so you can begin the process of protecting yourself.
Remotely Wipe Your System
If you use remote tracking software of any kind, make sure you use it to wipe all the data from your computer. If you don’t, at least try to use services such as Google to log you out of all your devices and even iTunes to deauthorize all the computers. This will help stop the criminals from looking at your data and it gives you one more small tool to prevent any kind of identity theft in the future. Try to cover as many of the different accounts you have as possible, as most of them offer some type of service like this, although not all do.
Change All Your Passwords
Go through each and every one of your accounts carefully and change the password to something else. In some cases, this will force a log out on your old laptop that now sits in the hands of the thieves. In other cases it will just prevent them from seeing even more on your machine. At the very least, it will prevent them from logging onto any of your accounts even if they have managed to get in and see some of your data.
Notify the Authorities
On top of calling the cops, you should head to https://www.identitytheft.gov/ to notify them of a possible breach in your identity. This will flag your identity in the systems used by a majority of the banks out there and prevent thieves from using your identity to open up fraudulent accounts in your name. This will also make it more difficult for you to use your credit cards and open up new accounts as well, so be prepared for a little extra hassle and the need to prove who you are to everyone you deal with at least while this hold is on your identity.
Check Your Credit Report
Starting from the day your laptop is stolen, you should start pulling your credit report from financial institutions I would say at least twice a month. This will help you identity any fraudulent activity with your identity quickly so you can put a stop to it before it is too late. You may spend the next few years doing this, so be prepared, as sometimes criminals will wait to use your identity until you least suspect it.
If there is one thing you cannot do when your laptop is stolen it is relax and forget that it happened. You must carefully watch your identity and nurse it like it was a newborn baby to keep it safe, and you must do this for quite a while after your laptop is stolen. While most criminals just want your device, some want what is on it as well, so you must make sure that you have everything in order to protect yourself and you must keep that protection in place for quite some time.
Never Look For It Yourself
You should never go looking for your laptop on your own. New services allow you to track your laptop rather easily. When you find it on the map, you may be tempted to go there and get it yourself. DON’T. That could put you in unnecessary danger that a simple laptop does not warrant. If you do have that technology, tell the authorities and notify them when it shows up on the map so they can check it out.
Prepare for Advice
When your laptop is stolen, you will get a lot of sympathy from people, but you will also get a ton of advice. Most of it you really won’t want, but some may prove valuable. In most cases, people will enjoy telling you how you could have prevented it from happening in the first place. Chances are you already know what mistake made you fall victim to laptop theft so you don’t really need to hear it from them. Remember, they mean well, even if their attempts at advice aren’t really wanted. Just nod and smile and tell them thank you for the advice. In the end, a stolen laptop isn’t worth a broken friendship simply because they decided to try and give you advice. I know, it will probably annoy the hell out of you. But in the end they are just trying to help.
What If You Get It Back
While most laptops are never seen or heard from ever again, there is the rare instance when the thieves are caught and you will get your property back – eventually. If you are this lucky, you need to do a few things with your laptop before you use it.
Check it out and make sure nothing malicious was installed on the machine. Run virus and malware scans to make sure. Go through your files to see if anything was tampered with. You may or may not be able to tell.
Once that is done and the police no longer have use for it, go ahead and reformat your laptop before you start using again just to make sure there isn’t anything left on that hard drive that could cause you further harm in the future. One that is done, make sure you password protect your laptop with a very secure and complicated password and use any type of encryption you can think of. That way if it happens again, you know that your personal data is safe.
Laptop theft is becoming more and more common with thousands of laptops being stolen each and every day. If you fall victim to this type of theft, it is important to know exactly what to do to protect yourself and start the process of getting your lost laptop replaced. Remember, most criminals just want to quickly sell off your device for a little extra cash, but some will be in it to try and steal your identity. Don’t let them.
By following the steps on this list, you can secure both your laptop and even your identity so if your laptop is stolen, you don’t have to worry about something even worse happening to you. In the end, a laptop theft is pretty minor, if not just an inconvenience. Especially when you compare it to having your entire identity stolen and subsequently ruined by just a few punks.
Remember, keep it together and follow through with all these steps immediately. It will increase your chances of getting your laptop back while reducing the damage that criminals could cause to your life once they get ahold of your precious laptop that you more than likely use every single day.